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Test-tube babies need fathers

Posted 01-17-2008 at 09:00 AM by ivf News Reporter
Updated 01-25-2008 at 11:13 AM by ivf News Reporter
From The Times
Ruth Deech

This proposal to change IVF law is misconceived. Doesn't a child need a father? Since in vitro fertilisation was first regulated in 1990 doctors have been required to consider the welfare of the baby, including “the need of that child for a father”. This is one of the few ethical principles in IVF law and has served as a reminder that the welfare of the child is more important than the wishes of the would-be parents.

But no longer, it seems. The Government is seeking, in a new Bill in the House of Lords, to delete that obligation. Instead, IVF providers will have to consider “the need for supportive parenting”, a change that is both unacceptable and inappropriate. The phrase “supportive parenting” will mean little to the public. Because it is speculative it will be difficult for practitioners to interpret, and it adds nothing of substance to the existing requirement to have regard to the welfare of the child. There is no reason to change the current approach, which works well.

A substantial amount of research has demonstrated that fathers make a distinctive contribution to child rearing, without which children are generally the poorer. If we believe that the welfare of children is important, it would be irresponsible to allow the law to move backwards and lose explicit reference to fathers.

The need to have regard to the role of fathers is not discriminatory. It has not and does not prevent same-sex couples from receiving IVF - the numbers of lesbian couples having such treatment is increasing. It simply asks those assessing IVF patients to consider the need of a child for a father, an eminently sensible provision that sends out a vital signal about the centrality of fathers.

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